Catholic Bishops issue statement on Iraq

14 Mar 2003


14 MARCH 2003



Following their Spring Meeting in Maynooth this week, the Irish Catholic Bishops’
Conference issued the following statement:

As we prepare to celebrate the Feast of St Patrick, who brought the Gospel of Peace to
Ireland, there is great tension in the world regarding the Iraqi situation. Whether or
not war should be declared on Iraq raises questions of profound moral and religious
concern, as is clear from recent public demonstrations in Ireland. As the UN Security
Council prepares to meet yet again to consider a further Resolution on Iraq, it is
essential that our attitude in Ireland to this debate is based on sound moral and
humanitarian principles.

Earlier this year Pope John Paul II emphatically said: “No to war…War is not always
inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity”
. The Irish Bishops’ Conference wishes
to add its voice of that of the Holy Father, and to the Bishops’ Conferences of the
United States, England & Wales, France and many other countries on this issue. The
resort to war on Iraq would indeed be a defeat for humanity and we would all be greatly
diminished by it. Furthermore we must consider the consequences of any war on the
people of Iraq.

We are heartened by the position taken recently by the Irish Government on the UN
Security Council in upholding the role of the United Nations and the primacy of
International Law. The United Nations Charter requires all states to refrain from
the “threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political integrity
of any state”
. There is a danger now that this key requirement of international
peace and security will be put aside as the option of a pre-emptive war is being
actively considered. We urge the Irish Government to reject such a course of action
and to continue to work diplomatically for a just solution based on law and on
humanitarian principles. In the words of Pope John Paul II, “War cannot be decided
upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last
. In our view, the case has not been made that such a war is the very last

In appealing to the Irish Government, and through them to other world leaders, to take
all possible steps to actively promote a political solution to this crisis, we beg the
Iraqi leadership to cease its repression of the Iraqi people and to cooperate fully
with the Arms Inspectors.

We are particularly concerned about the humanitarian disaster that will befall Iraq in
the event of war. Trócaire, the Irish Catholic Agency for World Development, is already
playing a key role in preparing for such an outcome by helping to provide food and medicines
for wounded and displaced civilians throughout Iraq. Furthermore many Iraqi church workers
have received specialised training to help cope with the crisis if it occurs. We urge
our people to be as generous as possible in contributing to all organisations involved
in this humanitarian effort.

In reaffirming our support for all persons and groups who are engaged in the building
of peace and the promoting of justice, we encourage the Irish people to continue to
pray fervently that a peaceful solution may yet be found and that the many years of
human suffering in Iraq can be brought to a just and peaceful end.

“Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be called children of God”(Matthew 5: 9).

14 March 2003

Further Information:
Fr Martin Clarke (01) 505 3000 or (087) 220 8044